I started out in a busy oncology unit in a Philadelphia Hospital as a student nurse eight years ago. Since then, I have worked in almost every specialty from ambulatory care to women's health in the course of my nursing career. I did want to become a doctor and -- not "but" -- went to nursing school because in North America, you need a bachelor's degree to enroll in medical school. We (together with my family) reasoned that a degree in nursing was the ideal first step, in this regard, to a career in medicine.
There have been many profound moments in the course my nursing career but somehow, the society we live in belittles the nursing profession. Ultimately, we nurses have come to belittle our impact as well. The human that we are, we are sometimes overtaken by moments where we may feel a sense of lessened accomplishment in our chosen career. These are moments when our autonomy as licensed healthcare providers is impeded upon, our judgement questioned unduly or worse our opinions tossed away because people think we are just nurses!
Reading this post from a fellow Huff Post blogger Kateri Hallard compelled me to write about one of the most profound moments of my nursing career. It happened at 35,000 feet above sea level on an 11 hour plane ride from Europe to America.
I was returning home to Los Angeles via San Francisco after attending a conference. About two hours into the journey, I heard the hostess make the announcement: "If we have any medics on board, can they kindly make themselves known to the cabin crew in business class."
I always travel with all my credentials and identification. I don't know why but perhaps for fear that if for some reason the world changed while I was away and I can't return home, I have the necessary documents to proceed with life in a new place. I haven't really thought about the reason but I am sure this isn't paranoia. The world is volatile enough these days.
However, I never expected to have to show my Registered Nursing license on a plane.
I came out of my sleep and proceeded to business class to introduce myself to the hostess. I can no longer recall if she was nice about it or not but as soon as I introduced myself to her, she said to me "Never mind, we already have a doctor."
I did not know why they needed me since there was no chaos (or blood) visible from where I was standing so I quickly returned to my chair and resumed my sleep where I left off. A little while later, I was again woken by the voice of the hostess. Some time had passed because I had managed to successfully have another dream.
"Will that nurse in economy class please come to the business class" the voice said. I was startled! Something urgent was going on in business class. I felt important, on top of the world!
Technically, I was at 35,000 feet anyway.
A very older gentleman on the plane was dehydrated. He was having diarrhea and some vomiting and he needed an intravenous access (IV) so that the fluids and electrolytes he was loosing could be replaced. We were many hours away from civilization and it was not wise to have him dehydrated until we landed. As I searched through the contents of the medical kit handed to me for the supplies that I needed, I did not bother to ask why the doctor on board was not able to help. I was overwhelmed with pride for what I was about to do. Putting in an IV is perhaps Nursing 102, but at critical moments, putting in an IV can be a matter of life and death. At 35,000 feet, it was good enough to massage my pride as a nurse -- the nurse -- on that flight.
Although, a recent career growth (spurted by my nursing career) has taken me to the world of public policy, nursing continues to seek me out to honor me. Once a nurse they say, you remain always a nurse.
A few nights ago, I woke up to a soft but strong and familiar voice "Ajarat Ajarat, I can't breathe," the voice said. I ran out of my sleep and my room to find my friend sitting in front of my door. It was almost 1 a.m. Holding her chest tightly with palpable fear in her eyes, she said to me as calmly as she could "I can't breathe, Ajarat, so I came to you because you are a nurse, what should I do?" An asthma attack had woken her from her sleep and although she was in a few apartments away from mine, she had managed to come looking for the nurse.
As we walked to her room to get the Albuterol inhaler, I had tears in my heart because at that moment, I realized how extremely grateful I was to nursing for choosing yet again to honor me.
No, we are not just nurses. We are nurses. What's your superpower?
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